Sometimes directors make disastrous decisions and setting Shaw’s play to the 1920s more or less is a disaster. It was written in 1902 and it was society then that it deals with. The cast, all hamming like mad, plough on in front of some of the worst sets I have seen in ages which bear no relation to reality. The house Mrs Warren has rented in act one is a doll’s house perched on an astro turf bank sporting some artificial flowers, while act two has the local church in miniature with a lych gate everyone has to bend double to get through. Sets apart Caroline Quentin plays Mrs Warren with an accent veering towards the cockney which makes her seem incredibly vulgar – she is, of course, no lady as far as society is concerned, which explains why she is not received by the vicar’s wife, but she is an international madame running a string of brothels and while she may have started off as a bit of rough for the posh boys she would have acquired loads of polish as she climbed the business world if not the social tree. It is obviously meant to reverberate in these woke times, in the age of Ghislaine you could say, but really it destroys what Shaw was writing about and while it was shocking back then it really does not relate to the woke world of today when what her daughter wants to do women do as a matter of course. There is no need to resort to prostitution to get ahead in the world. Marriage is not the be all and end all bearing a man’s children.
The play, which started in Bath, has been on tour and the main attraction, apart from getting the relatively rare these days chance to see a Shaw play, is the casting of Mrs Warren and her new woman daughter Vivie. They are played by Caroline Quentin and her daughter Rose and they make an effective double act – Quentin is, accent apart, a fine Mrs Warren and Rose Quentin does create a spirited Vivie who has, of course, not been brought up by her absentee on business mother but she has inherited her head for business and is intent on having a career of her own. She is an early instance of the new woman Shaw wrote about in other plays. While it was worth seeing in the catching up sense it was ultimately rather disappointing.
Mrs Kitty Warren: Caroline Quentin.
Sir George Crofts: Simon Shepherd.
Reverend Sam Gardner: Matthew Cottle.
Praed: Stpehn Rahman-Hughes.
Vivie Warren: Rose Quentin.
Hugh Gardner: Peter Losasso.
Director: Anthony Banks.
Designer: David Woodhead,
Lighting Designer: Lizzie Powell.
Composers & Sound Engineers: Ben & Max Ringham.
Voice Coach: Charmian Hoare.
Production Photography: Pamela Raith.